ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Nudge to Fudge

Without concrete measures for augmenting opportunities, “behavioural change” is a demagogy.


Is the Economic Survey 2018–19 deliberately trying to apply a “humane” face to the public policies of a government which has been re-elected to office by a whopping majority despite its dismal record in socio-economic governance? The very idea that the commoners are not some “rational” entities called “economic men,” but “human beings” of flesh, blood and folly, and that they need encouragement/interventions or “nudges” (not enforcements/mandates) for making choices for positive ­socio-economic changes in the country, is nothing new. In fact, for over a decade now various governments around the world are trying to integrate such insights from behavioural studies into policymaking. The underlying objective is to increase citizens’ participation in various state-led programmes/schemes and policies by nudging positive behavioural changes among them. While the current government’s claims of nudging such positive changes through its flagship campaigns like the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) and/or the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP), might find some veracity in the statistics of the ubiquitous spatial coverage of these programmes, the beneficiary-level evidences of impact are highly contentious.

For instance, an assessment of SBM by the 2018–19 National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) states that of the 93% rural households having access to toilets, 96.5% use these, thereby resulting in 90.7% villages in the country being open defecation free (ODF). On the contrary, the 2017–18 report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India clearly questions the tenability of the ODF parameters in assessing the success of the SBM in terms of household-level access and usage of the toilets constructed with financial assistance. As per the SBM guidelines, ODF is defined in terms of termination of faecal-oral transmission which in turn means the absence of visible faeces and the use of safe technology options for the disposal of faeces by households and public/community institutions. Nowhere in the guidelines is any explicit mention of the use of toilets for attaining an ODF status.

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Updated On : 17th Jul, 2019
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